Press Room NEWSLETTERS
November 4, 2016

ED Review... a bi-weekly update on U.S. Department of Education activities relevant to the Intergovernmental and Corporate community and other stakeholders

What's inside...
Protecting Student Borrowers
Principal Shadowing Week
School Ambassador Fellows
NAEP 2015: Science
The Big Read
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Protecting Student Borrowers

On October 28, the Department announced final regulations to protect student borrowers against misleading and predatory practices by postsecondary institutions and clarify a process for loan forgiveness in cases of institutional misconduct. The agency began the negotiated rulemaking process after it received an unprecedented influx of borrower defense claims following the closure of Corinthian Colleges. Previous regulations, promulgated in 1995, provided little detail on how borrowers could submit and how the Department would adjudicate claims.

The new regulations will protect borrowers and taxpayers and hold institutions accountable by:

  • giving borrowers access to clear, consistent, fair, and transparent processes to file claims;
  • empowering the Secretary to provide debt relief to borrowers without requiring individual applications in cases of widespread misrepresentations;
  • safeguarding taxpayers by ensuring financially troubled institutions provide the government with protection against the risks they create and holding institutions whose actions lead to discharges of federal student loans responsible;
  • helping students make more informed decisions by requiring proprietary schools with poor loan repayment outcomes to include a plain-language warning in their advertising and promotional materials;
  • making sure affected borrowers have information about loan discharge when institutions close and access to an automated process; and
  • banning institutions from inducing students to sign pre-dispute arbitration agreements waiving their rights to go to court and bring class action lawsuits based on borrower defense claims.

All provisions of the regulations (summary), with the exception of those the agency opts to designate for early implementation, will take effect on July 1, 2017 (press release).

Following requests from bipartisan members of Congress, the Department also announced its plans to restore semesters of Pell Grant eligibility for qualified students who were unable to complete their programs because their institution closed. This initiative is important because students have a limited number of semesters in which they can receive Pell Grants to continue and complete their education. In 2012, Congress reduced the maximum lifetime eligibility to 12 semesters—and applied it to all students.

Additionally, the Department's Borrower Defense Unit published its first periodic report, taking over responsibilities that had previously been assigned to a special master. The report provides updated data on borrower defense claims received and announces the approval of more than 11,000 new claims based on agency findings concerning Corinthian Colleges' misleading job placement claims. To date, over 15,000 claims have been approved, with a combined outstanding loan balance of more than $247 million.

In other news, the Department's Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) issued the next phase of its procurement to acquire a single servicing platform to support the management of loan repayment for borrowers with student loan debt serviced by the agency. The solicitation outlines the specific requirements the selected contractor must fulfill when developing the servicing platform. The new system will lay the foundation for upcoming contract actions. A July servicing memo has been updated to clarify that customer service providers should be allocated borrowers accounts that reside on the single platform based on performance as evaluated against specific outcomes measures. Upon full implementation of the vision, no single vendor will be responsible for performing every aspect of student loan servicing (press release).

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Principal Shadowing Week

As part of "ED Goes Back to School Principal Shadowing Week," dozens of Department officials spent time last week learning about the work of school principals by shadowing them at school. Approximately 80 agency staff paired up with principals, affording them the chance to witness the successes and challenges of implementing reform efforts at the school level. Subsequently, Secretary King—who shadowed Principal Elizabeth Moore of Pinch Elementary School in Elkview, West Virginia—met with shadowers and shadowees to discuss their experiences and how federal policies are playing out.

The agency launched its Principal Ambassador Fellowship program in 2013, modeled on its Teaching Ambassador Fellowship program, in order to better allow local leaders to contribute their knowledge and experience to the national dialogue on public education and, in turn, learn more about education policy at the federal level. Since then, 10 principals have been selected as Principal Ambassador Fellows.

Capping the week, the Secretary expressed his gratitude in a post on Medium, and current Principal Ambassador Fellow Dr. Monifa McKnight penned a blog post on investing in principals.

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School Ambassador Fellows

Speaking of Department fellowships, at the National White House School Counseling Convening with the Reach Higher initiative, the Secretary announced that school counselors, assistant principals, and other school personnel that work with students and other educators will have the opportunity to apply for an expanded School Ambassador Fellowship program, starting with the 2017-18 cohort of fellows. So far, the agency has just targeted teachers and principals. Including other education professionals working with students and educators every day will bring important perspectives to discussions of federal policy and programs.

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NAEP 2015: Science

Students in fourth- and eighth-grade showed significant improvement on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in science compared to 2009. Results also show score gaps narrowing by race/ethnicity and gender. However, the average score of twelfth-grade students over the same period was unchanged.

Among the highlights:

  • In fourth-grade, 38% of students scored at or above the Proficient achievement level, an increase from 34% in 2009. Significant improvement was recorded among all racial/ethnic subgroups, and the average score gaps between African-American and Hispanic students and white students narrowed. Also, there was no scoring difference between male and female students. Moreover, average scores increased in 18 states, while declining in only one state.
  • In eighth-grade, 34% of students scored at or above the Proficient level, an increase from 30% in 2009. Significant improvement was recorded among most racial/ethnic subgroups, and the average score gaps between African-American and Hispanic students and white students narrowed, as did the gap between male and female students. Moreover, average scores increased in 24 states, while declining in no state.
  • In twelfth-grade, 22% of students scored at or above the Proficient level, unchanged from 2009. There were also no changes in the scores of racial/ethnic subgroups or gender. Male students outperformed female students by five points in 2009 and 2015.

"More students are developing skills like thinking critically, making sense of information, and evaluating evidence," Secretary King said of the results on a call with reporters. "We certainly see these results as a promising indicator of progress. But, we are also very clear that there's a lot of work to do."

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The Big Read

The National Endowment for the Arts' (NEA) The Big Read, in its tenth year, provides Americans with the chance to read and discuss a single book within their communities. Governments, libraries, school districts, colleges and universities, and non-profit organizations are encouraged to apply for one of an estimated 75 grants that will be awarded for programming occurring between September 2017 and June 2018. The application deadline is January 26, 2017. Besides the grant, communities will receive resources, including reader's and teacher's guides and audio guides with commentary from artists, educators, and public figures. Communities will also receive publicity materials.

For this cycle, communities will choose from 28 selections (novels, short stories, memoirs, poetry, and books in translation), including 13 new titles.

Interested in learning more? The NEA will host a public webinar about The Big Read on November 16, from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, featuring a discussion about the selections in the Big Read library. Participants are encouraged to inquire about the selections and authors, as well as the application process.

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Odds and Ends

  • In a video, the NBA's Kevin Durant shares why he is proud to be part of the My Brother's Keeper (MBK) National Success Mentors Initiative, the largest school-linked mentoring effort in the nation. This evidence-based, data-driven mentor model connects trained adults already—or easily—linked to schools with chronically absent students to drive student success. The goal is to reach one million chronically absent students in the next three-to-five years.

  • On October 25, the Department announced more than $427 million in School Improvement Grants (SIG) to help turn around persistently lowest-achieving schools in nearly every state and U.S. territory. Since 2009, the SIG program has invested over $7 billion to transform some 1,800 schools. While this is the last year the agency will award funds under the current program, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) continues this work, requiring that states identify and support the lowest-performing schools with set-aside funds under Title I.

  • A new blog post offers "5 Financial Aid Tips for Parents (from a Parent)."

  • The College Promise Campaign released its first annual report, revealing there are more than 150 programs across 37 states offering some form of free community college. The campaign is working with the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education on an online database of "college promise" programs.

  • Among the resources from the 2016 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Week Conference are the Secretary's remarks and an Administration fact sheet on HBCU investments.

  • The Department recently launched the EdSim Challenge, a competition to design next-generation educational simulations that strengthen career and technical skills. Simulated digital learning environments, such as virtual and augmented reality, 3D simulations, and multi-player video games, are an emerging approach to deliver educational content and supply students with enriched experiences in information retention, engagement, skills acquisition, and learning outcomes. Developers interested in participating should submit their simulation concepts by January 17, 2017. A panel of judges will evaluate the submissions and select up to five finalists to advance to the "Virtual Accelerator" phase. Finalists will be awarded $50,000 and gain access to experts mentorships as they refine their concept and build a prototype.

  • Over the last two days, the Department, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and ASCD have been hosting Teach to Lead's first Teacher Preparation Summit. Sixteen teams of teachers and representatives from postsecondary institutions are working collaboratively to develop an idea addressing an area of growth or problem of practice within their teacher preparation program. (Note: The next Teach to Lead summit—focused on inclusion, equity, and opportunity—will be in Chicago, December 2-4.)

  • The latest What Works Clearinghouse Educator's Practice Guide, "Teaching Secondary Students to Write Effectively," provides evidence-based recommendations for improving the writing skills of middle and high school students.

  • The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) issued a report on homeschooling in the U.S., noting the number of homeschooled students more than doubled between 1999 and 2012.

  • The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Discovery Education have joined forces to combat a growing epidemic of prescription opioid misuse and heroin use nationwide. The mission of Operation Prevention is to educate students about the impact of opioid use and kick-start life-saving conversations in the home and classroom.

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Quote to Note

"Access to a low-quality [pre-kindergarten] program is no access at all. It's a false promise. It's a missed opportunity. Well-off parents can pay to send their children to programs of the highest quality. If we don't provide children of lower- and middle-income families with access to quality programs, our work is failing to reduce inequity and expand opportunity in our society.... Researchers at Vanderbilt University looked at the efficacy of Tennessee's voluntary pre-k program...and found that instead of helping children, pre-k may have actually held students back.... This is troubling news to people like me, who believe in the power of publicly funded preschool to change lives. Of course, as others have pointed out, this is a single study that runs counter to decades of evidence that points in the other direction. But, we can't ignore it.... Personally, I think it's a powerful reminder of the importance of not just access but quality and knowing which indicators of quality matter most."

        Secretary John King (11/2/16), delivering the 2016-17 Walter N. Ridley Lecture at the University of Virginia

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Upcoming Events

American Education Week (November 14-18) celebrates teachers and school staff. The week's tagline, "Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility," is a call for all Americans to do their part in making public schools great for every child. During the week, education support professionals will be honored on Wednesday, while substitute educators will be honored on Friday.

International Education Week (November 14-18) celebrates the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. This year's theme is "Promoting Cultural and Global Competencies for All." In his video message, Secretary King affirms "the power of a diverse, multicultural education beginning in the earliest grades."

The Great Thanksgiving Listen empowers high school students to create an oral history of the nation by recording an interview with an elder over Thanksgiving weekend. Interviews will be entered into the archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and on StoryCorps.me, where they become a resource for historians and provide families with a priceless piece of personal history.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

ED Review is a product of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Communications and Outreach, State and Local Engagement—Lindsay O'Mara, Deputy Assistant Secretary

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Last Modified: 11/04/2016